It was masterly knock which Kerala had been waiting all along this season.

But, Sanju Samson’s classy century hardly helped Kerala to the position of strength as the home team were restricted to a modest 219 in its first innings by its Ranji Trophy Group B rival Jammu & Kashmir (J&K) on Wednesday.

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The cloud cover which had been hanging over the St. Xavier’s KCA cricket ground, Thumba on Tuesday was hardly in sight. And it looked that the host could well be in the driver’s seat as it won the toss and decided to bat first.

However, it was not simply to be so, as pacer Mohammed Mudhasir struck two early blows to reduce Kerala to 19 for 2 before the side’s skipper Parvez Rasool, with his off-breaks, and left-arm spinner Aamir Azia came along to help J&K carry the day’s honours.

The spinning duo, maintaining a tidy line and length, also were able to extract enough bite to keep the rival batsmen guessing before Aziz removed Jalaj Saxena (22) and Rasool struck a further deadly blow by having the Kerala skipper, Sachin Baby leg before at the stroke of lunch (91/4).

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Sanju, meanwhile had settled well, and in K.B. Arun Karthick found an able ally as he negotiated the rival attack with confidence and helped Kerala to its best phase of the day. The pair put on 79-runs for the fifth wicket but with the exit of Karthick (35), Kerala again took a backseat.

Salman Nizar made no score but Sijomon Joseph kept one end safe even as Sanju went on to complete a deserving century with 14 fours and a towering six.

But with Joseph departing at 214, the rest of the four Kerala wickets, including that of Sanju, crumbled only for the addition of five more runs as Rasool finished with a haul of six for 70.